Year One of ‘Peer Advising Consults’ viewed as success

Students in the new Peer Advising Consultants program (PAC) have just completed their first successful year as peer advisers. According to Darrel Renier, director of Academic Advising, and Associate Prof. Denise Bartell, director of the Center for Students in Transition, who developed the program, the peer advisers assisted their fellow students by facilitating SIS demonstrations, reaching out to newly admitted students, connecting to first-year programming such as Majors Fair and FYS/GPS sections, and by answering basic advising questions. The plan is to expand the program next year to include students representing additional academic programs and to add a transfer peer adviser. The overall objective is to continue to improve retention and recruitment by bridging students to majors/minors, increasing student support and educating students about the important role campus advising plays in reducing time to degree while increasing academic success. “Academic Advising and Dr. Bartell would like to thank our P.A.C. members Allee Schramm, Morgan Jandrin, Trevor Copeland and Miranda Michaelis for a great year.”

UW-Green Bay wins $161k grant for new approaches to first-year achievement

With a grant award of $161,504 for the “Phoenix GPS Program,” UW-Green Bay is one of more than two dozen institutions across Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa receiving support for new initiatives meant to keep students in college and on track academically, socially and financially.

Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation is distributing a total of $4.5 million in grants this fall.  The non-profit company favors initiatives that serve students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, and those who are first in their family to attend college.

The Great Lakes grant to the Phoenix GPS Program will enable UW-Green Bay to create a year-long support community for a group of 125 first-year students, placing them into small groups of 25, each with a faculty mentor, a peer mentor, and an academic adviser. Over the course of the year, students will:

— Complete a first-year seminar course together — The first-year seminar courses are designed to offer a small-class, high-impact learning experience that involves challenging assignments, support to develop the skills necessary for academic success and an introduction to the interdisciplinary mission of the University;
— Participate in TOSS study sessions — These workshops have been found to eliminate the achievement gap in UW-Green Bay’s Introduction to Human Biology course, and the weekly, hands-on study sessions will be offered for GPS students;
—Participate in Student Success Workshops – These workshops provide students with opportunities to develop skills essential to academic success including time management, to polish relevant life skills such as financial management, to begin work on academic-major exploration and career planning, and to learn about the resources and services the University provides to support student success;
— Engage in co-curricular and social activities — GPS students will meet regularly with program staff and other students, including monthly dinners;
— Consult regularly with faculty mentors and academic advisers — GPS students will meet regularly with faculty mentors and academic advisers in order to identify and address any problems early, receiving individualized support if necessary; and
— Complete a service learning project together.

The activities aim to improve retention and persistence by helping students develop academic success skills, become familiar with campus resources, develop helpful relationships with mentors and peers, and connect to the campus community through co-curricular and service involvement.

The “GPS” in Phoenix GPS Program is an acronym for Gateways to Phirst-Year Success.

“The choice of a GPS as a metaphor was quite intentional,” says Denise Bartell, an associate professor of Human Development and Psychology who guided development of the proposal. “The Phoenix GPS Program is designed to help students navigate their first year of college, anticipate the roadblocks, and chart a course to first-year success.”

Bartell is director for the Students in Transition Center at UW-Green Bay, and has been active in promoting programs and teaching practices that are intended to improve graduation rates and year-to-year retention. Bartell wrote the Great Lakes grant proposal in collaboration with Michael Stearney, the University’s dean of enrollment services.

Attention to retention is especially important at UW-Green Bay, Bartell says, where nearly two-thirds of students are from one or more of the three historically under-represented constituencies. In a given year, roughly 60 percent of UW-Green Bay students are first generation, 40 percent are eligible for federal Pell Grants and 10 percent are people of color.

“Since these students often have a more difficult transition to college, they are statistically more likely to leave before completing their degree,” Bartell says. “The Phoenix GPS Program offers these students a comprehensive array of services intentionally designed to increase student success in the first year by addressing the specific barriers to success our research indicates students at UW-Green Bay face.”

“Success for a first-year student certainly includes getting good grades in their first semester,” Stearney says. “But success is also about building deep and supportive relationships with fellow students, faculty and staff, developing the skills and habits of a successful college student, growing in self-confidence, and getting connected with the Green Bay campus and community.”

The Great Lakes grant also supports more academic support to first-year students in the form of additional assistance from staff members in the University’s Academic Advising office, student tutors and peer mentors.

Bartell says total funding for the project is more than $260,000, which includes a match of approximately $100,000 by the University to the Great Lakes grant. She says more than 20 faculty and academic staff members and students from across campus will be involved in implementing the program.

“It’s very important to all of us at UW-Green Bay that all students who enroll at our University are given every chance to succeed,” Bartell says. “The funding from the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation allows us to develop a sustainable program to ensure that historically under-represented students succeed and thrive in college.”

“The programs being funded by this round of College Success grants are providing services proven to help students make progress toward their degree,” said Richard D. George, Great Lakes’ president and chief executive officer. “Each program has been thoughtfully designed to address the challenges known to keep students from graduating, helping them to develop connections to their campus, peers, faculty and staff and overcome financial obstacles. We look forward to seeing the impact of each of these programs in helping their students persist toward graduation.”

Along with UW-Green Bay, Wisconsin institutions receiving Great Lakes College Success grants are Alverno College, Cardinal Stritch University, Milwaukee Area Technical College, Mount Mary University, Marquette University and UW-Milwaukee in Milwaukee, College Possible of Milwaukee, Madison College, St. Norbert College in De Pere, UW-Eau Calire, UW College-Marathon County, UW-Oshkosh and UW-Parkside.

To see the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation news release and details on all of the projects, visit the webpage here.

Faculty Development Day marks debut of Students in Transition Center

UW-Green Bay faculty and staff are invited to RSVP now for the development conference “High Impact Practices: Fostering Success for all Students,” which will take place on campus Friday afternoon, Jan. 20. The conference is organized by the UW-Green Bay Center for Students in Transition in partnership with the Academic Staff Professional Development Committee, the Common Theme Committee and the LAS Dean’s Office. Participation is free, but pre-registration is required. The topic should be of interest to faculty of all disciplines, and to staff who work in academic services including but not limited to student life, academic advising, residence life, intercultural services, career services, learning technology, adult access and the registrar’s office. Participants will learn about innovative high-impact practices being modeled at UW-Green Bay and elsewhere.

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The afternoon “High-Impact Practices” conference on Jan. 20 is being run in conjunction with that morning’s annual Faculty Development Conference at UW-Green Bay. Participants may register online for either or both events.

Press-Gazette highlights freshmen retention efforts, related grant

UW-Green Bay’s freshmen retention initiatives are making news after UW System announced a $38,000 grant to help bolster the already successful efforts. First-year Seminars and FOCUS were highlighted in a Saturday (July 16) Green Bay Press-Gazette story featuring Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Scott Furlong. As we told you last week, the money will be used to establish the Center for Students in Transition here on campus. More on the good news.


New grant creates ‘Center for Students in Transition’

A $37,901 UW System grant will enable UW-Green Bay to establish the “Center for Students in Transition.” The competitive Growth Agenda Grant supports high-impact practices for boosting student retention and graduation rates. The Center will build on the success of UW-Green Bay’s FOCUS and First-Year Seminar initiatives. The first step will be appointment of a faculty member to assume part-time duties as director. Immediate objectives will include the pursuit of additional grants and fundraising opportunities, and the hosting of an annual academic conference related to the Center’s research. Scott Furlong, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and lead author of the grant proposal, is principal investigator.

Feature story: UW-Green Bay success with retention initiatives wins recognition
UW-Green Bay received its $38,000 grant for the Center for Students in Transition in large part thanks to the promise of its ongoing freshmen-retention initiatives —the First-Year Seminar program and FOCUS. Academic Dean Scott Furlong says the grant reflects UW-Green Bay’s recent history in taking an enterprising approach to retention, degree attainment and the success of diverse learners. Already a leader among UW System institutions in analyzing and pursuing these goals, the University is poised to take another step. “This grant is also much-deserved recognition for the dedicated work of faculty and staff across the University,” Furlong adds. A feature story that delves into UW-Green Bay’s relative success and plans for the future is now up in rotation on the main UWGB homepage; read more.

FOCUS, Seminars gain recognition, $38,000 grant for ‘Transition Center’

student-retention programsRecognition of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s success with a pair of freshmen-retention initiatives —the First-Year Seminar program and FOCUS — has yielded additional funding to further those efforts.

UW-Green Bay was recently selected to receive a $37,901 Growth Agenda Grant for 2011-12. The competitive grant awarded by the UW System supports high-impact practices for boosting student retention and graduation rates.

UW-Green Bay will use its grant to establish the “Center for Students in Transition.”

The Center will address strategies to assist new freshmen and transfers — the students typically most at risk to stop out or drop out — in making successful transitions to university life. The grant charges UW-Green Bay with developing and modeling best practices for possible replication at other UW System institutions.

Scott Furlong
Scott Furlong

Scott Furlong, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and lead author of the grant proposal, says the award reflects UW-Green Bay’s recent history in taking an enterprising approach to retention, degree attainment and the success of diverse learners.

“We’d like to be a beacon, not only locally, but beyond,” Furlong says. “We already share information, at national and regional conferences and within the UW System, about our successes and challenges, so this grant allows us to better document and, we hope, expand those efforts.

“The grant is also much-deserved recognition for the dedicated work of faculty and staff across the University.”

Signs of success

UW-Green Bay officials are encouraged by data indicating significant retention benefits from the ongoing First-Year Seminar initiative. The pilot project in recent years has grown to enroll at least one-third of all new freshmen in a Seminar course.

The courses provide students a small-class experience, more interaction with faculty and peers, and a higher level of direct engagement with issues and information than is typical in a larger, general-education course. Faculty members report being encouraged by the way participants seem to better adjust to the critical thinking, problem solving and study skills associated with university-level work.

The impact on retention is promising. As of early July, among last fall’s freshmen with the benefit of a First-Year Seminar course, 82 percent had already registered to return for fall 2011 to begin their sophomore years. That’s a solid retention rate and roughly 10 points ahead of those who didn’t take a Seminar course.

(The retention differentials in previous years were more modest, but still consistent, with advantages in the 3- to 5-point range for new freshmen who took a First-Year Seminar.)

Additionally, follow-up surveys show seminar students reporting they were more likely to contribute to class discussion, be exposed to different ideas, and complete coursework that emphasized applications. They also attended more co-curricular activities, reported improvement in their writing, and believed the class eased their adjustment to college.

Return on investment

While the University has pursued additional funding to expand First-Year Seminars and mount more of the smaller sections, scarce resources and another round of state budget cuts make that result unlikely, at least in the coming year, and the UW System Grant cannot be applied to hire more instructors.

Furlong and others, however, believe that the new Center for Students in Transition will yield results in faculty and curriculum development. With better understanding of which teaching techniques work best and which freshmen benefit most from the experience, the institution will seek to extend the effectiveness of its retention initiatives even at current size and scale.

Also encouraging is research suggesting that such initiatives can be particularly effective with students from traditionally under-represented groups. One of the Center’s priorities will be to more thoroughly explore those findings.

Moving forward

In the long term, advocates say, success for the Center should translate to higher student achievement, personal success for more students and graduates, and perhaps steadier enrollment and tuition revenue for the institution.

The first step in establishing the Center will be appointment of a UW-Green Bay faculty member to assume part-time duties as director. Immediate objectives will include the pursuit of additional grants and fundraising opportunities, and the hosting of an annual academic conference related to the Center’s research.

Principal investigator for the project is Furlong. Others listed as investigators are Associate Dean Donna Ritch, Dean of Students Brenda Amenson Hill, Director of Institutional Research Debbie Furlong, and Profs. Denise Bartell, Regan Gurung and Georjeanna Wilson-Doenges of Human Development, Andrew Kersten and Kim Nielsen of Democracy and Justice Studies, Aeron Haynie of Humanistic Studies, and Steve Meyer of Natural and Applied Sciences.

Links to FOCUS

The First-Year Seminar program is linked closely to the universitywide initiative known as FOCUS (First-year Opportunities and Connections for UW-Green Bay Students). FOCUS represents a targeted effort to design registration, orientation, welcome activities and first-year programs to ensure new students a fast start.

So far, students who take part in FOCUS events and take a First-Year Seminar course are performing better in classes and more likely to remain enrolled.

Currently FOCUS serves all incoming freshman through a variety of programs including Resources and Registration (R&R), Orientation, First-Year Seminars, Majors Fair, and other events. The University continues to monitor and evaluate all of its FOCUS program and how they support student success

“Ultimately, we would like to expand what we’re doing so that all new students will experience high-impact programs, classes and a rigorous liberal arts curriculum,” Furlong says.